On Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Tierney told the jury in the 10-week corruption trial of former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto and former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano that the two were guilty of taking bribes from restaurateur Harendra Singh — the prosecution’s key witness.
The bribes took many forms, causing the two to become tangled in a web of corruption that fed their inflated egos, Tierney said.
“When John Venditto referred people to Singh, he took care of them,” Tierney said. “Venditto got prestige,” free meals and limousine rides.
Singh provided an expensive massage chair and fancy office chair for Mangano when he became county executive and a $7,350 watch for his son.
The Town of Oyster Bay voted to guarantee millions of dollars in loans for Singh on March 23, 2010.
The assistant U.S. attorney used a data-driven PowerPoint presentation, and hard copies of receipts and emails, to make his case that the stakes were high for Singh and he was desperate for money, leading him to bribe Mangano and Venditto.
Venditto was charged with unlawfully securing town guarantees for millions of dollars in loans for Singh’s businesses. Ed Mangano was charged with pressuring Venditto to guarantee the loans, and Mangano’s wife, Linda, was charged for lying to federal agents to cover it all up.
The case was expected to go to the jury Thursday afternoon, after press time.
Before that, though, the three defense attorneys — John Keating, John Carman and Marc Agnifilo — had their turn to say their piece in closing remarks from Tuesday through Thursday morning. In those remarks, they attacked the credibility of Singh, who testified against the defendants as part of a plea agreement.
John Keating, Ed Mangano’s attorney, summed up his remarks by asking jurors: “What did this guy get from Nassau County?” That is, Keating said, Singh received no special favors from the county in return for bribes.
Keating said Singh didn’t need Mangano to win Town of Oyster Bay concession contracts, as Mangano played no functional role in the town because he didn’t hold office there. He added that Mangano never ordered Venditto to act in any way.
“Singh probably said 400 lies on the stand,” Keating said. “Lying means nothing to him, even in court.”
The bulk of Keating’s remarks centered on an emergency purchase order to feed relief workers from around the country in the days after Superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012. He said emails back and forth between county officials discussing the selection of Singh’s restaurant for the job didn’t involve Ed Mangano.
Keating also spoke of a bread and rolls contract for the Nassau County Correctional Facility in East Meadow that Singh bid on for his wife’s bakery in 2012. San Remo Bakery came in among the lowest bidders, but Singh withdrew the bid when he realized the 2,000-square-foot bakery couldn’t supply the amount of bread needed by the jail.
In 2010, the year Mangano took office, “Singh got nothing,” Keating said. “In 2011, zero. In 2012, there’s the bread and rolls contract. And then Superstorm Sandy hits. In 2013, nothing, and nothing in 2014 or 2015. Quid pro quo? There’s zero.”
Linda Mangano’s attorney, John Carman, spent his closing hours picking apart the FBI’s case against his client, inferring that pulling her into the criminal case was a way to get at her husband.
Officials contended that Singh gave Mangano a no-show job in return for political favors. Carman said, however, that emails prove Linda did work for Singh.
“She had a low-show job with a person she believed to be a dear friend. It’s perfectly legal to have a low-show job,” Carman told jurors. “Singh was fabulously rich, had a really nice house, a Maserati, and Linda has said she ‘loved him like my brother.”
He added that it would not have been a crime to have taken a no-show job.
Carman argued that none of the FBI’s interviews were taped and that statements made by Linda Mangano weren’t recorded, but rather were paraphrased by investigators. Carman said that, despite numerous requests, neither he nor Linda ever received a list of the “false statements” she allegedly made. He added that the agents’ note-taking was “unreliable.”
Linda Mangano, who has held various marketing jobs over the last 30 years and owns and operates a weekly newspaper, said she did work that included creating postcards for events at Singh’s restaurants, and making suggestions for menu items and motif improvements.
Marc Agnifilo, Venditto’s attorney, attacked Singh’s character. “Harendra Singh is selfish, remarkably self-important, and has grand plans … .” he said. “He’s not happy with where he is. He needs more. He needs to be more — to be somewhere else.”
He portrayed Venditto as “self-contained and happy” — already having all he could want or need. He said even Singh complimented Venditto at one point, calling him “a humble man.”
Agnifilo went on to say, “Singh uses love and closeness to get what he wants, and then he tells us it’s all a lie.”
Agnifilo said Venditto saw Singh as good for Oyster Bay back in 2010. The restaurateur had been a town concessionaire for 10 years, and had made capital improvements to the town buildings that he leased with his own money.
Agnifilo said Venditto didn’t know that Singh was in a corrupt relationship with former deputy town attorney Frederick Mei, who also testified last month in the trial as per a cooperation agreement. Agnifilo said Mei admitted under oath that he forged a document to make it look as though Venditto had signed a loan agreement on Singh’s behalf. Mei also admitted to forging a lease to get an earlier loan for Singh from Habib Bank, without Venditto’s knowledge.
Agnifilo likened Mei and Singh to Bonny and Clyde. “They found each other to commit crimes,” he said.